This is a drawing from the COVER of a new book from Platte Productions
entitled “Amazing Pencil Portraits 3“. I am very honored that they asked
me to contribute my drawing of Tyrone & Elina Wells


is a collection of the best portrait art from around the globe from the hand
of 52 artists in 29 countries! 70 Pages, Publish Date: November 18, 2011″
Hollywood Reporter



My Walter White drawing was chosen by BuzzFeed in the
“25 Best Pieces Of Breaking Bad Fan Art” HERE

My Interview with SlixArt HERE

My Jack Nicholson Drawing was used in a
Rosebud Magazine article about the Actor HERE

My William H. Macy Drawing was used in a
Rosebud Magazine article about the Actor HERE


Posted: May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


I had originally planned to draw this for myself, because I gave away all my original Breaking Bad drawings to the respective Actors.



1)      You must follow me on Twitter @RickForTson to qualify for the contest

2)      Create a Tweet that contains the the hash-tag #DrPencilContest

3)      Your tweet must ALSO contain this link to my drawing

4)      Your tweet must ALSO contain my profile name @RickForTson

5)      The more you tweet, the better chances of winning?

On TUESDAY 10/29/2013 @ThePumpkinGeek selected @Julia_Gulia1 on Twitter as the random winner! CONGRATS!

I will be doing more drawing give-away contests in the future on Twitter!

Thanks for all the support everyone!

rick kills pencils BrBa - Copy

I have long since known that cotton blends graphite very well, and I have always preferred the solid blending stumps over the hollow kind. I have used cotton make-up patches before, which work well for blending large areas, but lack control, and you cannot use them for small areas.

I have also used Q-tips in the past, but did NOT like the “feel” of it in my hand, because it was too thin to hold properly. I recently had the idea to break a Q-tip in half, and insert it into a clutch pencil. By the way, “Clutch Pencils” are made to hold graphite leads, and I also use them for specific parts of the drawing, just like I use Mechanical Pencils for specific parts of a drawing, when I don’t want to continuously sharpen a pencil.

By inserting a Q-tip into a clutch pencil, it gives you the feel of a pencil in your hand, which you are obviously used to feeling.

Q-tip blending

I CANNOT TELL YOU WHAT AN AWESOME BLENDING TOOL A Q-TIP MAKES, WHEN YOU COMBINE IT WITH THE FEEL OF A PENCIL! Now, I ONLY use blending stumps for tight corners, and very small areas. I also use a “Color Shaper” for specific blending areas, such as where hair follicles meet the scalp (see my blog post on Color Shapers).

I highly recommend you try using a Q-tip in a clutch pencil! It is taking my skin textures to a whole new level of smoothness! It also allows extremely subtle tonal values, which I could not achieve with blending stumps.

Hope you find this to be of some use for your toolbox!

Happy Drawing!

PAPER: Much can be said about all the many types of drawing paper available, and I have tried several kinds. The main types I tried early on were Strathmore and Canson MEDIUM tooth “Drawing” papers. I have SINCE moved on to using ONLY “Strathmore’s Bristol Smooth 300 series because it’s a THICK paper. The “tooth” is not easily destroyed and you can get DARK areas black as night (future blog post on HOW TO). It’s PERFECT for blending graphite; it forgives easily and has excellent erase-ability! It will take some getting used to, because it draws lighter than thinner papers, meaning the pencils lines tend to appear lighter than you may be used to, so I use a lot more B and 2B pencils now. Bristol comes in both SMOOTH and VELLUM. I personally prefer SMOOTH because it is a harder surface. You will just have to try it to truly understand the difference. View or buy it HERE

PENCILS: have also tried many types, but will now ONLY use Staedtler Lumograph pencils (made in Germany). They are excellent, and have “predictable and consistent” results. I find them, along with everything else I need, at Blicks Art Supplies! Always make SURE your pencil is SHARP! There many ways to keep it sharp, the obvious of which is an electric sharpener, which I use, but I sometimes fine-tune the point with fine sandpaper, or by rubbing the point sideways on a scrap piece of paper.

I also like “Clutch Pencils” aka “Lead Holders”. I use BOTH but for different reasons and specific parts of the drawing.

clutch pencil

Staedtler Lead Pointer Tub(SHARPENER)

The advantages of using Clutch Pencils are that their weight and length remain consistent, unlike pencils that are constantly shrinking in size and weight. It’s also cheaper to buy just the graphite refills than whole pencils. Staedtler make both the holders and the refills. There are a wide range of darks and lights, but I use only the middle range. I buy mine HERE

Mechanical Pencil

Mechanical Pencils are Excellent for specific use areas, when you don’t want to keep sharpening, and need a fine line. I use the 0.5mm leads (2B, B, HB, etc) but they also make 0.3mm leads for even finer drawing!



When I first started drawing, I used to take PHOTOS of my work, but it was never 100% in focus, and the room lighting affected the contrast. I’ve been using a scanner for over 2 years now, which has it’s limitations. First, the scanner bed size limits the size of the paper that can be scanned. My glass scanner bed is approximately 8 x 10 inches, which works for 99% of ALL of my drawings. I realize every scanner is different, and the default settings are also different, so I will just go over what I have and use.

I have an HP Officejet 6500A Plus (All in one fax, scanner, copier, printer). When I start a scan, it opens a software menu which allows me to adjust various settings.

Save As: JPEG
Output Type: COLOR
Resolution: 200 dpi
The only other setting are for BRIGHTNESS AND CONTRAST. I have BOTH set a ZERO.

Once I scan the area, it shows me a preview of the scanned area, which includes the “entire area” beyond the drawing borders, so it will need to be cropped, which I do using different software.

IMPORTANT: I don’t know about ALL the scanners out there, but mine seems to make the drawing contrast look LIGHTER than the contrast and tone in my drawing, so AFTER the SCAN PREVIEW, I leave the Brightness at ZERO but adjust the CONTRAST to about 15, which makes the scanned image darker, and closer to the contrast values in my drawing. I then click SAVE file and it saves to the DEFAULT LOCATION I have in my scanner software. Mine saves to my computer desktop.

NEXT I open the scan using MGI PhotoSuite II SE and crop the image to the borders I had drawn. There are hundreds of software programs out there that will do this. Then I RESIZE the file. When I click RESIZE it opens up a menu that allows me to Re-Adjust Width and Height. I reduce it just a little, so if the original scan was at 1200 wide, I change it to 900 or so. This removes some of the roughness created by digitizing and reduces the size of the file.

The drawing is STILL lighter that I’ve drawn it, so I then use Picasa image software, which allows you to adjust FILL LIGHT, HIGHLIGHTS, SHADOWS and COLOR TEMP (you can download Picasa FREE from Google). THE ONLY SETTING I ADJUST A LITTLE IS SHADOWS. I take my actual drawing and hold it up next to my computer screen and adjust the Shadow slide bar until it looks as much like the drawing as possible. Then SAVE and CLOSE.


You may have already shown me your reference photo, but if not, please keep these things in mind. I have realized that I have learned to draw what I see, and in a sense, a drawing is ONLY as good as the reference photo. A boring photo will result in a boring drawing. By boring, I mean one that does not have much of a range in contrast or tonal values. A great photo, with a good light source, contrast range, tonal values, etc has the potential to be a great drawing, depending on the skill of the artist.


Notice the WIDE range of light and dark areas? The file was also large enough for me to print it as large as I want, specifically as large as I will draw it, without it loosing any details.

I have discovered that I am FIRST inspired by a photo, and secondly by the subject. I would rather work with a fantastic photo of a stranger, than a boring photo of my favorite celebrity. I have to admit, that I have gotten really good at finding high quality photos on the web for use as my references! Let me first say, that a “good” high quality photo is one that is rich in contrast and details (especially in the eyes) and has a wide range of tonal values and shades of gray.

Your  reference photo MUST have a file size large enough not to become blurry and pixilated after I print it to be THE SAME SIZE I’m going to draw it. There are reasons for that, mainly because I draw on a 1:1 ratio scale of what I see.

(Notice how you can NOT see small details?)


Obviously, we can’t always hope for the PERFECT PHOTO, but just keeping these things in mind will result in a MUCH better drawing, because I simply draw what I see.

When I hunt for inspiring photos to draw, I look for all of the above. THEN I look for facial expression, etc. I use Google/Images and search by name, then I use the advanced search features. I start with LARGE, any type, any color. If there are lots to choose from, I will start limiting the search to FACES only, etc.

The first thing I do, is to use photo software to crop the photo, leaving ONLY the area I want drawn. Then I convert the photo Black and White. This allows me to see the photo in the same gray scale as graphite. This is how I’ve trained my eye to see contrast, and it will also give you a good idea about how the drawing will look. Sometimes, I will also adjust the contrast, highlights, mid-tones, and shadows so that it brings out the most and best contrast in the photo. ALL adjustments to your reference photos must meet with your approval before work begins.

If you prefer taking your own photos, I suggest using natural outdoor or window light, so that shadows will define the facial features. Try to have the light source to one side, so it casts shadows on the other. You may notice that I crop off the top of the heads in all of my drawings. I do that for two reasons. One, is because it creates the illusion that the subject is closer to you. Grab a newspaper and notice now how the column writers crop off the tops of their heads. It’s in order to make their face as large as possible with the tiny space they are given. Second, is because I made it “my own style”.

If you live in the Chicagoland area, you may wish to consider hiring my daughter Maggie for your photo shoot? She is a professional photographer, and has beautifully captured numerous weddings and personal sessions. View her website and blog here:

Why I no Longer Draw for Commissions

First let me say, that the ONLY exceptions to the below are good photos, the right price, and where I am in my life schedule.

I’ve had to write this letter in response to the many requests I get for drawing. CURRENTLY I am NOT accepting commission work, for the following reasons. I hope none of these answers sound arrogant; they are simply my honest feelings.

1) Inspiration: Drawing is my main escape from all the stress and pressures of life. It’s my down time, my ME time, my time to enjoy one of the few passions I have found this life. Just like everyone, my free time is very limited. When I find time to draw, I want to make the most of it! First of all, I discovered that I am FIRST motivated to draw by INSPIRING Photos! I am FIRST attracted to HIGH RESOLUTION photos that offer a WIDE RANGE of CONTRAST, light sources, and TONAL VALUES. The SUBJECT also inspires me, but on a secondary level. HOWEVER, when I set out to find a quality photo of a specific person (that meets the above description), and I am unable to find such a photo, either because it doesn’t exist, or is too small to print for a reference photo, then I must find someone else to draw.

Needless to say, if I hold myself to these standards, when making a yes or no decision to draw someone, what are the chances that someone will give me an inspirational photo? Sadly, it’s very rare. Besides hopefully improving my drawing skills over time, I know I have gotten MUCH better at selecting reference photos from the Internet. I got tired of people giving me uninspiring, boring photos that offer no contrast, or were too blurry, too small, or had poor light sources, etc, etc, etc. Never mind the fact that I am uninspired to draw a stranger. The ONLY exception I have had to date is my daughter Maggie’s photography at because she takes the kind of photos of people that hit me right in the face and makes me say, “I MUST DRAW THIS!!!” She just has a gift that way!

2) Time = Money: I never started drawing with the idea that maybe I could make some money doing it. Thankfully, I have never drawn because I needed the money. Even the classes I taught were just for fun, the challenge, and because everyone I know thought I should do it. On another note, I draw very small. I NEED to. I can cram a lot of details into a small space. But who wants a small drawing? A larger sized drawing affects my techniques, wrist movements, etc and even a 5×7 inch drawing takes me 5 to 10 hours to complete (details, hair, etc contingent). Up until now, I simply cannot bring myself to charge the amount of money it would take to make it worth my time, and I understand why folks would not want a 5×7 drawing. Just a 20% increase in SIZE equals a 50% increase in time. Bottom line, I would end up making minimum wage or less, so as for income, I am better off investing that time into my business and using my drawing time to draw what I want to draw.

3) Pressure: I hold myself to a pretty high standard when it comes to doing my best effort on a drawing, but there is no pressure, just a self-imposed challenge? In the past when I drew for someone, I found a pressure on me to do my best, but a fear that the client would not be satisfied.

You may have heard the phrase, “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life”. That would be true for me, if some corporation hired me to draw celebrities for a living, but that’s not the case (haha). When I found that I had a true passion for drawing, in October of 2008, I later had the thought that if I drew for money, it would become work, which is exactly what I discovered when I drew for commissions. The WHOLE time I was drawing for someone, I was wishing I could be drawing some other great photo I had just found, or was fearful it wouldn’t turn out good, etc.

So, as I think this all though, I would be open to commissioned work in the future, but for now, the ONLY exceptions would be if the client were to provide me with AMAZING photos and we agreed on price.